It's a big movie weekend, for sure. With New Moon finally out, I've already committed myself to spend an afternoon at the theater — the only complication is that I'm not so fond of the movie-theater fare. It's an admittedly challenging place to stick to healthy food choices, since there usually aren't any to begin with. Just in case you don't believe me, recent research is revealing just how unhealthy movie popcorn can be — and it's probably a lot worse than you think.
An article from WebMd highlights the Center for Science in the Public Interest's findings on the state of popcorn, which claims movie theater popcorn is just about as bad for you as "a pound of baby back ribs and a scoop of Haagen-Dazs ice cream or maybe two Big Macs" — and that's before you even add the butter. For the study, researchers sent samples of popcorn and toppings from three different movie theater chains and compared their findings to the chains' own nutritional information. What they found is likely to make you rethink how you view your movie treat.
The study's results show that the calorie count of movie theater popcorn ranges from just about 400 to 1,200 calories, and contains an alarming serving of saturated fat that's equivalent to three days worth of your daily recommended portion, and anywhere from 200 (in the smallest 6-cup size serving) to 1,500 milligrams of sodium. Additionally, the study revealed that both AMC and Regal theaters pop their popcorn in coconut oil, which has a saturated fat content of a whopping 90 percent. Cinemark theaters, which pops their popcorn in canola oil, earns the rep as the healthiest chain, with a significantly lower saturated fat content — ranging from 2 grams in the 420-calorie small size to 5 grams in the 910-calorie large popcorn bucket. But, keep in mind that popcorn is usually just a part of the order — add a soda or your choice of candy, and your order is easily nearing 1,700 calories.
To learn about healthier options at the movies
To avoid a serious caloric overload on your movie outing, the solutions are simple. Opt to share a small, unbuttered popcorn, and request that it be popped without salt (according to the article, these chains will happily oblige), or knosh on something healthy before you head out. If you can, bring a small bag of almonds or a piece of fruit along. Be smart about your choices, and don't let one afternoon at the movies spoil your healthy habits. It's totally fine to indulge every now and then, but a 1,200-calorie serving of popcorn that packs more saturated fat than you need in three days is hardly a treat for your bod or health.